Help Build the Next Generation of Philanthropy Leaders

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Are you a seasoned fundraiser, grant maker or philanthropist who is passionate about helping Generation Z become leaders in philanthropy? Do you care deeply about bringing a program to your community designed to prepare high school students for a lifetime understanding of and appreciation for philanthropy? The Three Pillars Initiative (TPI) is looking to recruit a cohort of volunteer Program Champions who will help them expand this vital program.

Below, TPI Founder Rick King talks about why he founded this youth leadership development program. Rick is also the Chairman of Kittleman & Associates, a nonprofit executive search firm based in Chicago.

I’ve always been bothered by the characterization of philanthropists as those who are rich, powerful individuals who give millions to their favorite charities. I strongly prefer to take a much broader perspective, defining philanthropists as people focused on improving our world by contributing any number of resources in lieu of personal wealth.

Reframing the term philanthropist as based on values rather than simply money offers an equal opportunity for everyone to embrace and practice it. As someone who has devoted my professional career to making a difference, I wholeheartedly believe that the sooner we start cultivating a philanthropic mindset in the next generation, the better. That’s why I launched the Three Pillars of Philanthropy model in 2010, starting with 12 high school students in Oak Park, Illinois.

Mentor-guided, hands-on learning

Designed to prepare high school juniors and seniors for a lifetime understanding of and appreciation for philanthropy, this youth leadership development model provides mentor-guided, hands-on learning experiences in fundraising, grantmaking and volunteering - the Three Pillars of Philanthropy.

Over the past 12 years, 270 teens have been accepted into the two-year program, with a 97 percent completion rate. These participants have distributed nearly $300,00 to local nonprofits and their fundraising success has yielded a current endowment of $1.3 million. Program alumni continue to actively engage in philanthropy in college and into their early career arc.

In 2021, the program received the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy award. This program model is now being scaled nationally under the Three Pillars Initiative (TPI), a 501(c)(3) philanthropy services organization based in Oak Park, which has established programs in five other states.

The building blocks for success

Here's a quick look at what makes TPI so effective – and why we’re actively looking for volunteers eager to help expand our efforts to develop young philanthropic leaders in multiple communities in the Chicago metropolitan area:

  • TPI’s project-based learning (PBL) approach and thoughtfully designed two-year curriculum provides real-world experience. In the first year of the program, high school juniors focus on learning about the art, science and business of grantmaking. They get valuable practical experience designing an RFP, receiving grant proposals, conducting site visits and reaching consensus on allocating funds.

    In their senior year, students focus on the art, science and business of fundraising. They organize a year-long fundraising campaign, write appeal letters, do personal asks, write grant applications to foundations and organize fundraising events. In both years, students also participate in service projects they design to address unmet and/or urgent needs in their community.

  • Enthusiastic community volunteers passionate about philanthropy lead the program and mentor students. Adult Philanthropy Mentors represent a range of individuals such as professional fundraisers, program officers, school counselors, business and marketing executives, nonprofit leaders and community stakeholders. They share a commitment to nurturing the next generation of philanthropic leaders by serving as facilitators, teachers and role models.

  • A Program Coordinator organizes and orchestrates the program to ensure the highest quality experience. Backed by TPI training and resources, the Program Coordinator works closely with Philanthropy Mentors to plan monthly learning sessions, communicate with students and provide ongoing program administration and evaluation. In practice, it is typical to have two Program Coordinators, one for the junior cohort and one for the senior cohort, once the program matures.

  • TPI’s proven model builds a pipeline of next-gen leaders who want to change the world. TPI program students, who must apply to be selected for the program, represent a cross section of the community in terms of race, ethnicity, gender and socio-economic demographics. Most importantly, they demonstrate a desire to create change. Thanks to social media, Gen Z certainly ranks among the most well-informed on local and global issues. TPI offers a unique opportunity to instill a philanthropic mindset early in their lives which will enable them to build the skills and confidence necessary to become successful change-makers.

If you’re excited about working with teens to spark a lifelong interest in philanthropy and would like to learn more about bringing TPI to students in the community where you work or live, feel free to reach out to Amy Funk, Senior Vice President, Ter Molen Watkins & Brandt at afunk@twbfundraising.com. We would love to talk with you about your interest in being a Program Champion to start a program in your area. Click here for a full job description.

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Three Pillars Initiative values a diverse program and strongly encourages women, people of color, LGBTQ individuals, people with disabilities, members of ethnic minorities, foreign-born residents and veterans to apply.

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